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Gov. Justice proclaims Vocational Rehabilitation Recognition Day

Oct. 19, 2020 proclamation of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

Governor Jim Justice has issued a proclamation declaring October 19 as Vocational Rehabilitation Recognition Day, marking 2020 as the 100-year anniversary of the public Vocational Rehabilitation program, both nationally and in West Virginia.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fess Act of 1920, known as the Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act, into law on June 2, 1920. In West Virginia, Governor John Jacob Cornwell issued a proclamation on August 30, 1920, accepting the provisions of the federal Smith-Fess Act, which essentially started the Vocational Rehabilitation program in our state.

Through the 100-year anniversary of the Vocational Rehabilitation program, we have been able to reflect on the significance of the dramatic advances for people with disabilities. During this time period, one of the most meaningful developments has been opportunity – people with disabilities have the opportunity to access and gain an education, people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in the workforce in jobs that would not have been imaginable at one time, and people with disabilities have the opportunity to fully partake in and contribute to their communities.

With October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month, this is a time to celebrate the role the Vocational Rehabilitation program plays in helping people with disabilities to break down barriers to employment, as well as a time to applaud the success of workers with disabilities for their determination, innovation and hard work and to acknowledge employers for promoting diversity in the workplace by having inclusive hiring practices.

The full text of the proclamation follows.

Proclamation

by Governor Jim Justice

Whereas, this year marks the 100-year anniversary of the enactment of the federal Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act, commonly known as the Smith-Fess Act and the beginning of the public Vocational Rehabilitation program, on June 2, 1920; and

Whereas, West Virginia Governor John Jacob Cornwell accepted the provisions of the federal Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act by issuing a proclamation on August 30, 1920 to establish the Civilian Rehabilitation program in West Virginia; and

Whereas, an estimated 19% of West Virginia's population has a disability; and

Whereas, society's understanding of disability is reflected in the transformation of Vocational Rehabilitation from a program narrowly focused on people with physical impairments to a program providing a wide array of services and supports that lead to high-quality, competitive employment, as well as increased independence and community participation for people with diverse and significant disabilities; and

Whereas, a workforce reflecting the talents of all people, including those with disabilities, is critical to building inclusive communities and a strong economy in West Virginia; and

Whereas, West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services, in collaboration with public and private sector partners, helps West Virginians with disabilities excel in their chosen careers, earn competitive wages and benefits and positively impact their employers, communities and the state economy; and

Whereas, the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Fess Act calls attention to the beneficial partnership between the state and federal government to provide Vocational Rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities seeking competitive employment and to employers seeking to hire, retain, and advance qualified employees with disabilities; and

Whereas, the month of October is known as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is a time to showcase the employment contributions of individuals with disabilities.

Now, therefore, be it resolved that I, Jim Justice, Governor of the Great State of West Virginia, do hereby proclaim October 19, 2020, as:

Vocational Rehabilitation Recognition Day

in the Mountain State and encourage all citizens to join me in observing the 100th Anniversary of the West Virginia Vocational Rehabilitation Program by recognizing and acknowledging West Virginia's hard-working Vocational Rehabilitation professionals, West Virginia's citizens with disabilities, and West Virginia's employers for providing job opportunities to those citizens.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of West Virginia to be affixed.

Done at the Capitol, city of Charleston, State of West Virginia, this Thirtieth day of September, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand Twenty, in the One Hundred and Fifty-Eighth year of the State.

The Proclamation is signed by Governor Jim Justice and Secretary of State Mac Warner.

Celebrating 100 years of Vocational Rehabilitation in America

100 years of Vocational Rehabilitation

On June 2, 1920, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Smith-Fess Act, known as the National Civilian Rehabilitation Act. Two earlier congressional Acts had established vocational rehabilitation programs targeted to helping disabled World War I veterans transition to civilian life.

  • 1917 — The Smith-Hughes Act established the federal-state program in vocational education, as well as created a Federal Board of Vocational Education with the authority and responsibility for vocational rehabilitation of disabled veterans.
  • 1918 — The Smith-Sears Veterans Rehabilitation Act, also referred to as the Soldier's Rehabilitation Act, expanded the role of the Federal Board of Vocational Education to provide services for vocational rehabilitation of veterans disabled during World War I.
image of original Smith-Fess Act legislation

The Civilian Rehabilitation Act of 1920 advanced those models to ultimately create a vocational rehabilitation program for all Americans with disabilities, and this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of that action.

The Civilian Rehabilitation Act established the federal/state vocational rehabilitation program and gave funds to states, with a 50-50 match, mainly for vocational services, guidance, training, occupational adjustment, and placement services, but only those with physical disabilities were eligible individuals at the outset, and they were not provided with any physical or psychological therapeutic services.

The current Rehabilitation Act governing these services was originally passed in 1973 and that Act is now part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, passed in 2014. Title V of the 1973 Act was particularly significant for advancing the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, including the non-discrimination provisions of Section 504. Today students with learning disabilities may receive educational services under Section 504 when they do not qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These services are critical to help students achieve success in school and transition into postsecondary education and/or employment.

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The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (WVDRS) is answering the call to recruit WVDRS clients, who are interested in customer service representative jobs, to work with Amazon, the multinational company that provides online sales, web services, video and music streaming, Alexa through Echo devices, and so much more. Read the full story here

Fifth annual art contest and exhibition to showcase West Virginia artists with disabilities

Charleston, W.Va. (May 21, 2018) – The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) invites West Virginia artists with disabilities to enter the 2018 West Virginia Diversifying Perspectives Art Contest and Exhibition. This fifth annual event will feature original artwork created by people with disabilities. Read the full story here

Diversifying Perspectives 2017 Exhibit Catalog and Program2017 Diversifying Perspectives Art Contest winners announced

Charleston, W.Va. (Sept. 6, 2017) — The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) announces the 2017 Diversifying Perspectives Art Contest and Exhibition award winners. Read the full story here.

2016 Diversifying Perspectives Art Contest winners announced

Charleston, W.Va. (Sept. 7, 2016) — The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) announces the 2016 Diversifying Perspectives Art Contest and Exhibition award winners. Read the full story

2016 Diversifying Perspectives Art Exhibition opening announced

Charleston, W.Va. (Sept. 1, 2016) — The 2016 Diversifying Perspectives Art Contest and Exhibition will open with a reception at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, in the Great Hall of the Culture Center.

The exhibit will be on display in the Balcony Gallery and features original artwork created by people with disabilities. Read the news release